Following up their publication of Charles Portis’s “Motel Life, Lower Reaches” online, the Oxford American brings us a speech in verse by Jay Jennings, the editor of a recent compilation of Portis’s work (which our own Bill Morris reviewed). Jennings delivered an ode to Portis to mark the author winning the Porter Prize Lifetime Achievement Award. Sample quote: “But you read the next book because the main character was from Little Rock,/and you knew no other book where the main character was from Little Rock/and you wanted to write a book about Little Rock.”
The Millions is thrilled to welcome a new staff writer, Ismail Muhammad, whose first piece for the site publishes today. (You may have seen Ismail’s work at Zyzzyva and the Los Angeles Review of Books previously.) He splits his time between Los Angeles and Oakland, where he’s currently working on a dissertation and a novel. Find him on Twitter @trapmotives and Instagram @trapmotifs.
Now this is a headline for the ages: “‘Self-Harmers are Not Just Depressives’: Writing a Book About Cutters Who Cook.” (Incidentally, the book in question is Jessica Soffer’s Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots, which we covered last week.)
In anticipation of Adam Sternbergh’s novel, Shovel Ready, Chris Bilton and Sarah Liss collaborated on “the ultimate N.Y.C. dystopia map,” which serves as an amalgamation of “some of the darkest visions of the city.” Meanwhile, Jacob Silverman points us to a map of St. Petersburg, Russia, “made out of lines from Russian literature.” (Bonus: Sternbergh discusses his novel with the Los Angeles Times.)
“Exorbitant cost aside, if I can have the complete works of Shakespeare electronically beamed into my brain in under ten minutes, can I really say I’ve experienced Shakespeare? There is something organic about the experience of moving your eyeballs from left to right over an LCD screen in order to take in a sequence of marks the brain then must interpret as words, all the while using your hands to grip a lightweight, durable device.” Arguing for e-books over beaming text into your brain.
Helen Vendler is one of those rare scholar-writers who doesn’t adhere to a particular school of theory. In her new book of essays, she explains her view of criticism as distinct from both philosophy and scholarship, as a form of learning that’s inherently “unsystematic and idiosyncratic.” In Open Letters Monthly, Jack Hanson reads through the book. You could also read Jonathan Farmer on Rita Dove’s letter to Vendler.